Champlain College EMC Partners with ECHO to Develop Interactive Games for Exhibits

Echo Game

BURLINGTON, Vt. - Students at the Emergent Media Center (EMC) at Champlain College have developed an interactive digital experience in partnership with ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center on Burlington's waterfront.

"Lake Quest," funded through an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Museums for America grant, aims to build upon physical exhibits in an engaging, educational, and fun way using digital technology to enhance the visitor experience.

ECHO visitors will be able to launch their own "Lake Quest" journal that includes activities such as games, trivia and collecting badges, and use it as they travel throughout the museum. Currently, two games developed by students at Champlain College are available. Further funding will allow additional games on environmental topics to be added in the future. "Lake Quest" launches in conjunction with ECHO's current exhibition, "Playing Together: Games," a look at how humans use games to solve problems, learn about the world, and understand each other.

GAMES

· "Lake Invaders" is designed to teach children ages 6 to 8 years old how to identify invasive species in Lake Champlain. Designers say it is an "infinite runner" style game that challenges players to catch invasive species as they pass by. At the end of each round, players receive suggestions of what other exhibits within ECHO, to explore based on the game.

· "Algae Officer" challenges older players, ages 10 and up, to manage resources so their cities and towns can grow, while keeping blue-green algae from taking over the lake. "The game is a great way to learn about how the choices we make influence the health of the lake," say designers.

Two mobile tablets are installed in the "Into the Lake" exhibit on the first floor and the Action Lab on the top floor showcasing "Lake Quest." Visitors have the option of accessing the games by swiping a unique RFID sticker (Radio-frequency Identification) on the tablet to access an individualized journal. When players approach a tablet, they pass the RFID sticker in front of the tablet and the journal "opens", welcoming the individual back. With an RFID sticker, players will also be able to earn badges for completing different challenges in the games and those badges will be added to their journal. ECHO is among the early adopters to use this new technology to bring a new level of interactivity in a museum setting. Visitors may also access "Lake Quest" without RFID stickers.

Partnerships like this are at the heart of the mission of Champlain College's Emergent Media Center, according to director Ann DeMarle. The "Lake Quest" project was led by Champlain MFA in Emergent Media graduate students, who researched and conceptualized the ideas working with experts from ECHO. Then skilled Champlain College undergraduate game designers, artists, and programmers worked collaboratively to prototype, test, and build the digital experience. "For me the biggest challenge for this project was balancing fun and education. We spent hours visiting the museum, watching how people interacted with exhibits, and talking to the ECHO summer campers. What we came up with incorporates scientific concepts with mechanics from popular games," says Champlain alum AJ Twombly '13, interactive designer for the project.

The EMC is one of Champlain's Centers of Excellence with a mission to educate and inspire next generation media creators and leaders. "We support the talent and creativity of students to design interactive media, games, and mobile apps to create meaningful solutions," DeMarle explained. "Forming partnerships like this with ECHO, we can give our students real-world experiences before they graduate and introduce these smart talented young professionals to employers and clients." "Lake Quest is a perfect blend of fun, education, and technology and a great example of how a game environment can help children and their families learn more about the environment and how their lives and choices can impact the health of Lake Champlain," said Phelan Fretz, executive director of ECHO. Learn more about the programs at Champlain College's EMC at http://champlain.edu/emc. Visit ECHO online at http://www.echovermont.org/

About ECHO: ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center is a 36,000 square foot, award-winning LEED- certified facility. Founded in 2003, ECHO welcomes more than 150,000 visitors annually with interactive exhibits and science education programs that include over 70 species of fish, amphibians, invertebrates, and reptiles; and more than 100 interactive experiences. ECHO is the public face of the Patrick and Marcelle Leahy Center for Lake Champlain - a 2.7 acre environmental campus on the Burlington Waterfront.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

· Stephen Mease, Director of Public Information and News, Champlain College, 802-865-6432, smease@champlain.edu

· Steve Perkins, Director of Development and Communications, ECHO, 802-864-1848 x118,sperkins@echovermont.org.


Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 90 residential undergraduate and online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 382 Colleges: 2018 Edition. For the third year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's 2018 "America's Best Colleges," and an "A+ School for B Students" and is ranked in the top 100 Regional Universities of the North. Champlain is also featured in the Fiske Guide to Colleges for 2018 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and is a 2018 College of Distinction. For more information, visit  www.champlain.edu.